Wouldn't you rather have a print than a computer game for Christmas?
If so, there is art all over town to warm the heart at modest prices. And unlike electronic games, the art won't be boring or busted by next year.
The Bethesda Art Gallery, 7950 Norfolk, Ave., specializes in American prints from the 1920s, '30s and '40s and is always one of the best sources for bona fide print bargains. It has once again come up with a holiday show full of prints priced form $25 and up.
There are, of course prints by well-known artists like Thomas Hart Benton, Grant Wood, John Sloan and George Bellows trading at hefty (but always fair) prices. But among the lesser-known or wholly unknown artistics, most of them ripe for resurrection, low-priced items can be found. And you're likely to learn something to boot.
For instance, did you know that silkscreen was not used in this country as a fine-art medium until a silkscreen unit was set up under the WPA? At that time, several artists, including Harry Shokler, began producing prints that looked like small paintings, very loose and painterly, and wholly unlike the flat faultless, and often slick serigraphs of today.
There will be an exhibition on the subject later this year, at which time prices will no doubt begin to rise. Meanwhile several are currently for sale at$25, including a little gem called "Monhegan Rocks" by Shokler and images of the New York skyline seen form Shokler's Brooklyn Heights studio, that score high in the nostalgia department.
There is more: prints by John Fenton (1912-77) including one called "Rabbi," a fine Hanuka gift. For lovers of the sea, there are maritime etchings by George Wales ( $55), sea and surfscapes by Leo Meissner ( $35) and prints about football and ski jumping by Louis Schanker and Benton Spruance.
For a little more cash, Don Freeman's amusing 1930s lithograph "Wall Street at Noon" ( $275) would make a timely gift, as would Al Hirschfeld's "Art & Industry," depicting an artist sitting on a Greenwich Village sidewalk, peddling his art while a small dog relieves itself on some ( $300). That item, ironically, was issued in 1935 for $10. It didn't sell.
The show continues through December, and stock is constantly replenished. Be forewarned, however, these prints are habit-forming.
In Bethesda, Capricorn Gallery, now in a handsome new space just around the corner at 4849 Rugby Ave., is always worth a visit. With a specialty in realist art (and a sub-specialty in trompe l'oeil), this joyous jumble is still the same old mix of the good and the not so great. But, ignoring the featured show, there are interesting items all over the place. The bargains are harder to find.
But there are still several fool-the-eye carvings in wood by Roy Caravaglia (a pair of skates, a French horn, and a paint box with palette, brushes and tubes at $500) which could please and amuse just about anyone.
And atop a print by Will Barnet were perched, at last look, two exceptionally fine paintings by an artist called Robert Bauer ( $800).
The gallery is open Sunday afternoon, 1 to 5, and the show never ends.
There are several galleries which traditionally feature reasonably priced work for the holiday, and Franz Bader's Christmas show is always among the best. Now located at 2001 Eve St. NW, Baker is featuring his usual group, including Alfred McAdams, Ben Summerford, and Un'Ichi Hiratsuka, along with less expensive prints by Naul Ojeda, a woodcut artist of great charm who is also showing through Dec. 14, at the Inter-American Development Bank Gallery, 801 17th St. N.W.
The Washington Women's Arts Center is showing "Art for Gift's Sake," at 1821 Q St. NW, while Via Gambaro at 416 11th St. SE on Capitol Hill has a wide range of work by contemporary American Indian artists. The Foundrey Gallery (2121 P St. NW has a show of modestly priced miniatures by 40 artists opening Tuesday.